Our interview today is with Dawn Stephens, author of The Little Pot.
FQ: Your book deals with an important topic that parents often struggle with. What made you decide to write a book to help them share God's love and purpose for each child?
The book was a result of my own struggle with this issue. Growing up, I always thought it was so important to know what I wanted to be. We put so much pressure on kids when we ask them –“What do you want to be when you grow up?” As if they have to choose one specific thing to be and that thing will fill them with joy. As an adult, I carried that idea and felt I had to have a purpose in what I was. I wrote the story as I struggled with discovering what God’s purpose was for me. I’ve had several jobs and careers in my life, and each time I made a change I was left wondering what was the purpose of that?
FQ: The potter/pot are a beautiful analogy for The Creator/child. Did you consider other characters (farmer/crops, baker/bread, etc.) first or was the potter/pot your first idea?
I did think about a shepherd and sheep. I wanted the book to draw people to a biblical reference. But the potter seemed a better fit for me because my identity comes from being continually emptied and filled in life. I also love the idea that I could take a physical object(the little pot) and bring it to life in a child’s imagination.
FQ: Little Pot has a couple of false starts on his path to learning his purpose (document holder, piggy bank). Do you feel it's important to convey to children that they too may have false starts in their life?
Not so much “false starts”- but tasks that have purpose in preparing them for God’s plan. The potter is never wrong for giving Little Pot those starts. It is Little Pot who doesn’t quite see them as it should. Every experience in life teaches us something. The paper pot represents that we seek wisdom, which in itself is not a bad thing, we all need it. But if we only focus on how smart we are – and not in how we help others, it isn’t doing us any good.
The coin pot represents that we seek riches. There is nothing wrong with being rich, but if it is only to glorify ourselves than we have missed the purpose in “holding” the treasures God gives us.
The flower pot represents beauty. We all seek the idea of being beautiful and attractive also. Each start that Little Pot has in the story is there to represent the things that we use to help us find happiness and purpose in life. We all need to understand, however, that our happiness comes from bearing fruit which means to show love, joy, patience, kindness, etc.
FQ: In the story, we never see more than the hands of the potter. I found this very profound and respectful. Was it a hard decision not to show the rest of the potter?
I’m smiling that you found that profound. The real reason is because I am more comfortable at drawing hands and not so much at drawing the rest of the body. In art classes whenever I had to draw the human body, I always chose the hands. It was easier for me. Also, I visualized the potter from the perspective of Little Pot. Hands seemed to be what it would find most comforting and allowed me to leave more of a mystery to who the potter really is. A mystery that I hope the reader will seek and discover.
FQ: The pot is very simple in design yet so expressive. Tell us a little about the creative process for illustrating The Little Pot.
My first renditions of Little Pot were with a photo of a flower pot and cartoon eyes. Everyone who saw it, however, said it reminded them of “clip art.” Those first designs were even simpler than ones you see. I wanted to draw pictures that simplified the concept of the story and would not further complicate it. I originally had the piggy bank and the paper vessel being the same shape as Little Pot. Then I felt that I could add more to the story by giving them an identity of their own. It also helps the reader identify with how we continually compare ourselves to others to find satisfaction.
FQ: You mention that you wrote The Little Pot as you tried to learn God's plan for yourself. Do you feel that the completion of the book and sharing it with others is part of God's plan?
When I first wrote the story I thought I would never find an ending. I didn’t know what kind of pot Little Pot could become that would make it eternally happy. I really never thought it would become a book, because I thought we went through life being filled and emptied and it never ended. I always knew that God had a purpose, but I wasn’t confident that I could really discover it. I was just too focused on myself. Once I discovered Little Pot was a Fruit Pot and that I needed to focus on bearing fruit- everything seemed to fit for me.
It is ironic to me how the book, itself, is a way for me to bear fruit. I have found purpose in my own life through it. Not in the fact that I am now a published illustrator and author. That is just like having another job. But the true purpose is that I am able to share something with others that gives them joy, helps them understand patience, and even introduces them to a loving potter.
Thanks for allowing me to share it with your readers too.